Why ‘SMART’ Goals Are Stupid

Average reading time – 9 minutes

 

The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.

– Bill Copeland (Cricket umpire)

Why 'SMART' Goals Are Stupid

When it comes to goal setting, you’ll probably have heard about setting goals using the SMART goal setting tool. This will be especially likely if you have a corporate background or work in government. Perhaps you are like me and you’ve been told time and time again, like when setting annual appraisals or scoping projects, how important it is to set a goal that is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound (take the first letters and you have the acronym SMART).

The first-known use of the term occurs in the article, "There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management's goals and objectives", written by George T. Doran and published in the November 1981 issue of Management Review. SMART criteria are commonly associated with management consultant and author Peter Drucker's management by objectives concept, first popularized by Peter Drucker in his 1954 book The Practice of Management.

But if SMART goals are the way to do it, then why do so many of us not achieve our goals? Studies tell us that most people give up on their new year’s resolutions by mid-January. According to the article This Year, Don't Set New Year's Resolutions published on the Forbes Business website, less than 25% of people actually stay committed to their new year resolutions after just 30 days, and only 8% ever accomplish them. Even my recent Instagram polls conducted in December 2020, revealed that people don’t feel they are achieving their goals in the way they would like.

So what’s going wrong?

In my personal experience of achieving (and failing at) my own goals and working with my 121 clients as a life coach, I think it is because we are going about it the wrong way when we’re setting our goals!

SMART is stupid – it doesn’t work!

Bit harsh? Maybe. But there are certainly many flaws within SMART goals that contribute to people often not achieving their goals. After all, what’s the point in having the most perfect SMART goals and then not going out & achieving it?

In this blog, I want to share with you some of the areas where SMART goals go wrong and give you alternative methods for setting your goals. I also want to introduce the power of setting forward-looking 'Range Goals' and how you can introduce them into your personal life and business.  

Alice Dartnell Life Success Coach London Consultation Max Lenz Stuggart SMART Range GGoals Chalkboard Graphic

SMART goals are not the most useful way to set goals in this life-by-design age.

Reason 1: Don’t be too specific with your goals

I understand why it does appear to make sense to have a specific goal, because it gives us a measurement marker and something to aim for, but the trouble is, it promotes a very “all or nothing” approach.

Let’s say for example that your goal was to lose weight. Sure, it is better to say “I want to lose 10 pounds” than just “lose weight” because it is unclear, is that lose a pound or 100 pounds? However, what happens if you lose 9 pounds? Have you completely failed at your goal because you were only one out?

The trouble with being too specific, is that it can make you feel like you failed even if you done a pretty good job at your goal.

My suggestion then… set a RANGE GOAL!

As I explain in my blog Power of Goal Setting using 'Range Goals', forward-looking “range goals” are a smarter alternative to the traditional “specific” goals. Range goals are something I have developed and have incorporated into all my personal life and business objectives.  

Range goals still require you to set a goal and be clear (ambiguity is never good) but instead of setting a specific target, you decide what your target is within a range.

The first advantage of setting range goals is that you will not beat yourself up or be too hard on yourself if you just miss your target. The second advantage of range goals is that setting range goals also allow us to exceed our expectations.

For example, if your target was to save money every month, you could make it a range goal of £300 - £500 a month, rather than a specific £400.

Reason 2: Time-based goals don’t actually help with your time management

The T in SMART is for “time based”. Having a deadline and time-based goal does make sense but there is so much more to just putting a deadline on it. Plus, where does that deadline even come from? Because in my experience, people will just go for a deadline that sounds good rather than one that actually works.

When thinking about your goals and their time frames, there is so much more to think about.

My suggestion then… carefully think about the other factors of time to your goal.  

Things you need to think about include:

  • What other competing priorities you might have with the goal
  • All the other things you have to do in life, like chores, responsibilities, work etc. that take your time and will eat into the time available for you to spend on achieving your goals
  • How long will it take to achieve your goal, rather than a deadline made up. For example, if you are writing a book, how long does it actually take to physically sit at your laptop and type 10,000 words?
Alice Dartnell Life Success Coach  London England pen in hands thinking pose like Rodin The Thinker statue  Rodin Museum in Paris.

What is your "Why"? When setting your goal you need what  Simon Sinek called in his popular TED talk “WHY”.

Reason 3: Where is your “why”?

SMART goals all feel a bit too clinical for me. They fail to connect with a reason you are setting this goal in the first place – what is the desired outcome, why are you doing this, what is the motivation, is it worth your time?

When setting your goals, you have to have a fire in your belly! Without that it’s hard to motivate yourself towards achieving your goal. What is going to kick our butt out of bed in the morning? You need what author and inspirational speaker Simon Sinek called in his popular TED Talk, a “WHY”.

Suggestion… connect with your why

As Simon Sinek famously talks about this in his TED talk in 2009, your 'why' is your driver to your goal and it is what sets you apart from others. It is also what connects people to your cause, and what gives you the ability to pick yourself up when you come across a hurdle. A strong why connects you to your purpose of the goal. No one was ever motivated to do something just because they had to do something! What is your driver?

 

Alice Dartnell Life Success Coach sat eating celebrations christmas xmas chocolates and looking guilty

When you set goals you need to factor in “buffers” and ‘cheat days’!

Reason 4: What’s going to trip you up?

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there is never going to be a goal in our life that you achieve where it’s 100% plain sailing. You WILL trip, fall, fail, feel stupid, get hurt and want to give up.

This is not to be cynical or “glass half empty” but by knowing that there will be obstacles makes us plan for them. After all, prevention is better than cure! When setting your goal, think beyond this – you need to ask, what hurdles will there be and what can I do to overcome them?

Suggestion… Cheat meal your goal

SMART goals don’t address the issue of things not going 100% all the time. Things will trip us up, we will make mistakes, and sometimes we won’t know where out motivation went!

One of the reasons we often derail from our goals is because we berate ourselves when we fall off the wagon or things go off-piste. When I set goals, I also factor in “buffers”. For example, if you were on a diet, you might factor in “cheat meals” because we can’t be motivated to eat heathy 100% of the time. Whether your goal is to build a business, go for a promotion, start learning Chinese, or learn to drive, where can you factor in your ‘cheat days’ and buffers?

 

Alice Dartnell Life Success Coach  London Consultation  look at ladder window cleaners in Grand Park Royal Hotal Cancun Mexico

When we set goals we need to make sure ladder the ladder is leaning on the right wall before we climb up it!

Reason 5: It forgets about resources you need and what you have available

When setting a goal the SMART way, you’ll check off that your goal is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time based, and you think you’re set. BUT, what about resources? What do you need to achieve your goal? SMART forgets about that.

There are lots of resources you need to consider including finance, time, your mindset, your confidence and building a network. You may need a coach who is going to support you. What access to knowledge, yours or someone else’s, do you have?

Suggestion… think about your resources

Good questions to ask are:

  • What do I need?
  • What do I already have?
  • What am I missing?
  • What do I need more of?
  • What can I utilise?
  • Where can I get them from?
  • Who can help me acquire or build them?

This is important because not only does every goal require some sort of resource but acquiring that resources might be a goal in itself! Like a mini sub-goal to your main goal! For example, if you were changing industries in your career, before you achieve that goal you might have to work on a skill or qualification, and that in itself then becomes a goal. It is a stepping stone to the next goal.

 
Alice Dartnell Life Success Coach London Consultation Max Lenz Stuggart SMART Range GGoals Chalkboard Graphic range goals SMART

Range goals can be applied in every aspect of your life including health, finance, business, and other projects.

Range Goals and Further Reading

So if SMART goals don't work how should you go about setting your goals? As I explain in my blog Power of Goal Setting using 'Range Goals', forward-looking “range goals” are a smarter alternative to the traditional SMART goals. Range goals are something I have developed and have incorporated into all my personal life and business objectives. Range goals still require you to set a goal but instead of setting a specific target, you decide what your target is within a range.

The first advantage of setting range goals is that you will not beat yourself up or be too hard on yourself if you just miss your target. The second advantage of range goals is that setting range goals also allow us to exceed our expectations.

Read my blog Power of Goal Setting using 'Range Goals', to find out more about what a “range goal” is, how range goals are better for your mindset and motivation, why they are more likely to help you on your road to success plus how you can adopt ‘range goals’ professionally and personally. And don’t worry, I also share some practical tips and tools to help set them and implement them. 

 

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This article is written by Alice Dartnell, life and success coach of Alice Dartnell Limited. Alice empowers busy professionals to be successful, transform their lives and achieve more by improving their confidence, mindset and time management.

For more information please see www.alicedartnell.com.

Copyright 2021 Alice Dartnell Limited

 

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This blog is published solely for educational and entertainment purposes. The author and publisher are not offering it as legal, accounting, health care or other professional services advice. While best efforts have been used in preparing this blog, the author and publisher make no representations or warranties of any kind and assume no liabilities of any kind with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents. Neither the author nor the publisher shall be held liable or responsible to any person or entity with respect to any loss or incidental or consequential damages caused, or alleged to have been caused, directly or indirectly, by the information contained herein. Every person and company are different, and the advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation. Alice Dartnell or Alice Dartnell Limited is not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed, nor does it endorse any commercial product or service mentioned or advised in this blog. You should seek the services of a competent professional as appropriate. You are responsible for your own choices, actions, and results. Always consult your own General Practitioner if you're in any way concerned about your health.